How to Say “Sorry” to Your Clients

May 3, 2013

How to Say "Sorry" to Your Clients: Customer Service Conflict Resolution

How To Say Sorry To Your Clients: Lessons in Customer Service Conflict Resolution

Everyone has a bad day sometimes. I recently took my car in for service to a dealership that has served me well for many years. As usual, I dropped off my car, handed over my keys, and was given a clean and new loaner car to drive. The trusty service consultant told me to expect a call from him later in the day. He had told me given the nature of the problems I had discussed with him over the phone, I might want to anticipate a few days. The expectation had been set, but soon enough things would start to go south.
A few hours passed, and I was told to keep the loaner for the day as some parts were needed. He had set my expectations, so I was not surprised. The next day I received a call indicating there were some considerable problems with the car and the ignition needed to be replaced. I was very surprised given the car is only two years old. The service consultant outlined the issues and gave me a fair quote for the items not covered under the warranty. He indicated that they were having some issues resolving a problem and that he would keep me updated.
Towards the end of the day he got back in touch to tell me the part they had received was defective and they’d be ordering another one. I was pretty surprised and starting to get frustrated. The next day, I received an email that the car was ready. But I arrived at the dealership and was handed an invoice for double what I was expecting. They had forgotten to inform me about the cost of the original service. Since the car had so many issues to document when it was dropped off, this had slipped.
check engine lightTo add insult to injury, the mechanic had performed an alignment that they hadn’t gotten permission from me for. However, the service consultant recognized my long personal relationship with him, and the dealer immediately gave me a significant discount. He made sure to apologize and spent several minutes speaking with me since he knew I was not happy.
While I finished up at the cashier, the Service Consultant made sure my car was cleaned and ready for me to go. As I walked to my car, he thanked me for my business, and I slid into the seat.
The car wouldn’t start and flashed an ominous message “Service Required.” Before I could say or do anything the service consultant was at my side. He profusely apologized and made sure the loaner car I returned was given back to me. He promised to get to the bottom of this, and said he’d have my car dropped off at my house when it was done.
The next day I received a phone call and an apology from him. He took the time to explain it was a miscommunication between him and the mechanic and discuss the steps being taken to ensure they got it right this time.

3 Customer Service Conflict Resolution Tips

Normally, most customers wouldn’t return to a dealership that made this many mistakes, but I will and here’s why:

  1. Constant Communication: Throughout the process, I was kept informed of how things were going. Even after things started to go wrong, I was updated with what the problem was and how they planned to fix it.
  2. Strong Relationship with My Service Adviser: I have known him for years, even when he switched dealerships, I started going to his new one because he had consistently surpassed my expectations. I see him more as a trusted adviser who would always tell me the truth.
  3. The Service Adviser took Responsibility and had an Action Plan to Remedy the Situation: The service adviser didn’t hesitate to offer a discount, apologize, and make sure I wasn’t inconvenienced any further by ensuring my car would be dropped off at my house when ready.

Mistakes happen, and in any relationship, it’s how the mistakes get handled that matters. The service adviser did an outstanding job of handling the situation, and that’s why I will be back.

Corporate Strategy, Sales Operations

Sudip is in charge of Corporate Strategy, Sales Operations at <a href="">Alegeus Technologies</a>. Previously, he worked at OpenView from 2012 until 2014 with portfolio companies to provide insights on the markets they operate in, their customers, and drive development of business strategies.